It seems far-fetched to think that anyone would steal your identity, but it happens a lot more often than you think. In 2018, there were 2.6 million reports of fraud and identity theft recorded by the Consumer Sentinel Network. As people share more of their personal information online, you must educate yourself on the risks and know how to handle potential threats.
Use Strong Passwords
People nowadays still use their pet’s name or date of birth as their password; even worse, they tend to use the same password or a simple variation of it on every website they use. While simple passwords are easy to remember, they also jeopardize your security. Hackers can use software to decrypt your account password in a matter of days. Those who are close to you or know how to look for the right details online can even guess your password. Any account that contains personal information such as your address, date of birth, social security number and financial information should be properly protected. A strong password generator can help you come up with a password that ensures your most vital information is safe at all times. You should also avoid saving any information such as your credit card numbers or address; while these features are convenient, they put your identity at risk if the site they’re hosted on is ever hacked.
Monitor Your Credit Reports
You’re entitled to one credit report every year from each of the “big three” credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. On a more routine basis, you can monitor your bank activity using your bank’s free app. Flora Templeton Stuart recommends that you should alert credit agencies about any information on your credit report that you believe is inaccurate. Catching an identity theft may not be easy or even always possible, but reporting details as soon as possible can prevent further damage. Some banks or card companies will directly contact you when suspicious activity, but these services are not 100% reliable and will sometimes miss incidents of credit fraud.
Use Social Media Wisely
Avoid tagging your location or posting photos with distinguishable street signs or buildings; remove metadata from photos before you upload them. Only accept friend requests from people you know, and never provide personal information to anyone over text or the internet. Be cautious of scams that may appear in your emails or phone asking for identifying information; even if it seems like it’s from your bank or another legitimate institution, call and confirm. It’s common for online predators to masquerade as legitimate companies, and they will often create fake web pages to link you to. Keep an eye on the URL bar to ensure that you have not been redirected away from an official social media site to a different malicious website.
Using these tips, you can make sure that your time on the internet is as safe as possible.
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